What do you think you AR doing?

26 July 2016


Unless you have been sleeping under a rock (and even if you had, you would probably have been disturbed by a Pokeman hunter) then you cannot have failed to notice the craze that is Pokemon.  Whether you are an avid fan or you shrug your shoulders and wait for the next faze/fad you may not have considered the impact AR is going to have on society. 

Until now most computer games with a few exceptions are played in a virtual landscape, Pokemon Go is one of the first to be based in the real world, augmented by virtual reality.   Numerous media outlets have reported on some of the more negative aspects of the game, from lost hunters, to robbery, to trespassing.  

The interest I have is not so much with the game itself but rather the impact the virtual world is having on the real one and the lack of responsibility or culpability that app developers have in this space.  I would argue that legislative changes need to be put in place now to deal with the potential impact of new applications, in particular I think that an application should require a permit to register the location of the AR models prior to the release of the application.

Before you cry foul let’s just consider what would happen if a council commissioned a new monument to be built in a park.  The council would study the best location for the monument, maybe through public consultation, they would add a path to the monument to protect the surrounding environment, or some fencing and so forth to make it safe.  Budgets would be balanced and funds allocated.

Now let’s consider the same scenario but in this case a games company virtually adds a monument, it doesn’t do an impact study, or consult the public, there is no path or no fence and yet both monuments my get the same number of visitors, or as we have seen with Pokemen, the monument may be overrun with visitors.  Without infrastructure in place this could damage the environment or put visitors at risk and ultimately cost the tax payer.

Surely this is unacceptable, just because something is virtual it does not mean it does not have an impact in the real world?

The growth of AR will continue, how we interact with and perceive the world around us is going to radically change as AR becomes more pervasive, more valuable, more intrusive and more engaging and we have to have the tools in place now, not to stifle innovation but to guide it and help it in this brave new world.

So what do you think, should the virtual world be free from constraint, or should it be monitored – and what does that look like and how?